Theaters Considering Allowing Texting During Movies

Published 3 years ago by

Texting During Movies Theaters Considering Allowing Texting During Movies

Inside a movie theater, even the quickest peek at your phone can be extremely distracting for neighboring viewers. It’s a topic we’ve covered time and time again on the Screen Rant Underground podcast. We’ve all been there – when the blinding light from a switched-on cell phone suddenly erupts in the seat next to us. While most moviegoers agree that texting during a film can be distracting, at least one theater chain believes that the anti-phone use crackdown has led to the alienation of certain (read: younger) moviegoers – and, as a result, it might be time for less-strict regulations.

As technology continues to evolve, and we become increasingly dependent on minute-to-minute connectivity with friends, family, and co-workers, it can be quite a shock to the system when we’re asked to put away our smartphones. Whether we’re at a family dinner, seated on an airplane, or stuck underground on a stalled subway train, these days, most of us get a little antsy when we’re cut-off for too long. However, does that mean that we should throw common courtesy out the window?

According to a Deadline report, Regal Entertainment CEO, Amy Miles, addressed the possibility that her theaters could, in the near future, ease-up on texting enforcement (at least during certain movies) – in an effort to win-back younger moviegoers who might be down on seeing films in theaters:

“You’re trying to figure out if there’s something you can offer in the theater that I would not find appealing but my 18-year-old son [might].”

According to the report, Miles used the example of 21 Jump Street as a film where the theater might be less strict about phone use – as opposed to, we assume, a film like The Artist.

IMAX executive, Greg Foster, agreed, adding:

“We want them to pay $12 to $14 to come into an auditorium and watch a movie. But they’ve become accustomed to controlling their own existence.”

Of course, any attempt to categorize which movies fit into the stricter/less-strict categories would be entirely subjective – and could discourage non-phone-users from attending a film they might otherwise have wanted to see for fear that they’d just be surrounded by people who’d rather text than watch the film (the film everyone paid, as Foster put it, $12 to $14 to see).

Fortunately, Alamo Drafthouse CEO, Tim League, was also in attendance. League, as many movie fans will undoubtedly recall, is known for a heavy-hand when it comes to controlling the moviegoing experience in his theaters – which has earned him plenty of angry letters over the years from disgruntled customers but, at the same time, has made him the champion of big screen purists.

“Over my dead body will I introduce texting into the movie theater [...] I love the idea of playing around with a new concept. But that is the scourge of our industry. … It’s our job to understand that this is a sacred space and we have to teach manners.”

As the news broke, our own Screen Rant founder, Vic Holtreman, shared his thoughts on the matter today via Twitter – laying out a pretty clear-cut approach to the issue that many movie fans will no doubt agree with:

“Whichever theater chains decide to “allow” texting will be those that I will never visit again. Ever.”

It’s certainly a tricky balance – since, if we’re being honest, most of us can recall a time where we skirted the no texting rule for one reason or another. However, the idea of lifting the ban on texting entirely (even if only in films targeted at “younger” audiences) is a very slippery slope – and it’s easy to understand why League intends to continue throwing out habitual texters in an effort to maintain that “sacred” theater space. Ultimately, moviegoers should be able to expect a certain quality of experience when they go to the theater – in exchange for their hard-earned money and limited time.

Empty Movie Theater Worst Movies of 2010 Theaters Considering Allowing Texting During Movies

Theatergoing is a communal experience that, in its purist form, is made better by the other people who share in the experience. We laugh more during a comedy film, surrounded by other people who are similarly entertained, than we would alone in our apartment. We knowingly enter into this social contract when attending public screenings – expecting that sharing in the experience with other people is worth any inconvenience we might face as a result of ignoring our phones for two hours.

Of course, like any other unspoken social “contract,” there are plenty of people that will ignore the unspoken (and, in this case, spoken) rules of the community – with only their own feelings and wants in mind. Most of us can look past less considerate audience members from time to time – accepting that, like similarly chatty moviegoers, we’re all a little inconsiderate once in awhile. That said, if theaters outright lift bans on phone usage, it’s easy to imagine things getting out of hand and there’s a big difference between getting stuck next to the inconsiderate guy (or gal) once in awhile – and having to choose what movie to watch based on whether or not the theater will be illuminated by a tiny sea of LCD screens.

That said, the whole “target” of the conversation is kind of bizarre, and borderline condescending towards younger viewers, considering that plenty of grown adults are guilty of focusing more on their phone than any on-screen action.


Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further suggestions on theater etiquette (kidding, kind of) as well as other movie, TV, and gaming news.

Source: Deadline

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  1. Why the hell would you need to start texting in a movie theatre?

    Mind you, this is more than likely aimed at the numpties who start talking loudly just as the movie starts, while at the same time kicking the back of your chair.

    Makes my blood boil.

    • I keep loose change in my pocket to throw at these selfish kids. The light makes them an easy target.

  2. Worst of all, people will expect ME to RETURN their #$%^ texts during the movie… one of the few places I can go to get away from the annoying things…

    Time to buy a really big screen TV, and stock in Netflix…

  3. You can’t text on a plane which on average in the US most nonstop flights range between 2-4 hours. Of course that’s a guestimate on my part. So I don’t get why people can’t wait 90 min or so and just watch a movie. If I’m paying $8 to go watch something, especially in this economy, you better believe I’m going to pay attention and get my $8 worth. Just my opinion.

    Sidenote, I just popped my screenrant cherry. Frequented for sometime now, just never posted.

    • Every now and then, some ignorant Klingon will verbally abuse you. It’s not SR, it’s just an annoying poster.

      What’s annoying is allowing you humaans to exist!!

      See what I mean.


      Welcome to SR.

    • Nice one, trent!

    • Welcome Trent!

    • Hiya Trent! I’m catching up on all my missed blogs (been away since like mid-April) and saw ya here and wanted to greet you. These guys are a little nutty, but you learn to love ‘em, lol…welcome pal!

      Yeah, I remember my first time…it was wonderful… :)

  4. I was in attendance at panel. Ms. Miles said regal would CONSIDER TESTING a less restrictive policy at a few screens to see if it would attract more of the younger audience. She never said they would allow texting in all their theatres. She never even said they would do the test; they would be open to a limited test. It would be nice if you guys would report accurate facts.

  5. Are you serious. ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I cannot believe something like this is even up for conversation…utterly ridiculous.

  6. OK there are a lot of things that are annoying. Smokers are annoying, people who smell like smoke, people who get up in the theater to go to the bathroom or get food, people who get up to go use their phone outside, people who can’t mind their own business in a movie theater. It is very very very simple. If you are in public people have a right to do things even if it annoys you. If you can’t handle a person texting, then A you can’t focus on a movie and B you are a loser. Just get over it people will text if you don’t like it then just stand up walk out the exit and watch movies from home.

  7. I stopped going to movies long ago just because of aholes with cellphones texting/talking. I have not tolerence with these incosiderate, spoilt brats-none.

    • So the other day me and my two friends saw Rio 2 and we sat in a row that only had three seats, in the very back. There was only 30 minutes left of the movie and we got bored so we pulled out our iPhones that were silenced and dimmed completely (we had to hold the phone close to our faces and squint to see the screen). Then all of the sudden, with only a few minutes left of the movie, a man who looked about 70 came over and bent over us saying “you girls are rude, disrespectful, self-centered and immature and im asking for a refund because you girls were on your phones”. Keep in mind he sat two rows in front of us and he was there by himself. So a lady, who also sat in front of us, told him to stop talking and to go sit down, and that a old man like himself shouldn’t be watching rio 2. Then he left to get a refund (which he didnt get) and the women in front of us said she didnt even realize we were on our phones. Should the old man have gotten a refund?

      • Yes, you have no idea whether you were disturbing this man and your attitude is certainly immature!

      • I think you are very disrespectful ! In a dark theater, what might be dim to you is distracting to others. I would have zero patience for someone like you. it would be very annoying

        • LOL “I would have zero patience for someone like you” Ok well then leave the theater. Don’t go to a social setting and expect everything to go your way. I don’t like it when people whisper in the theater or get up to make phone calls, go the bathroom or get more food. i don’t like it when food drops in the dark or if people smell like smoke. In the end I am an adult and I deal. If I don’t want to put up with something I LEAVE. That is the adult way of handling anything in life, you aren’t happy change your own behavior. Sure it would be nice to punch every idiot in the face that thinks they can tell me I can’t use my phone but I just ignore them like an adult would. If you get distracted by a phone screen in a movie theater then you (and all others like you) have serious issues.

  8. From the article it’s sounds like Ben HAS used his cell phone during a movie. So it’s quite hypocritical to tell others not to.

    I have NEVER used my cell phone after the theatre has darkened, so I can say no one else ever should either.

    It’s simply about being considerate of others, of keeping them in mind rather than only your own wants and needs.

    I agree, if a theatre ever openly said, sure, feel free to text, I would not go there. Period. But would that be all that different than it is now? I’ve yet to see a theatre evict someone. All they’ve ever done is send an employee into the theatre, who just stands there for a few minutes, then leaves quietly. Why shouldn’t that cell phone user continue to use their cell phone, they’re not had an unpleasant consequences they’ve had to accept.

    I’d pay an extra dollar or two, absolutely, if it meant there’d be a couple of theatre employees watching, who would evict, not just nicely ask, anyone who used their cell phone.

  9. I don’t see the big deal here. I personally don’t text during movies (or much at all, I still use a flip phone for crying out loud) but to say that the very minor glow of a screen at someone’s waist level (so long as they have the common sense enough to not hold it up in the air while texting) for a moment will destroy your movie watching experience is ludicrous. Just watch the damn screen, not the people around you, and you will not even notice.